Ethiopia: News - UN Received "Necessary Clearances" for Humanitarian Flight, No "Prior Warning" of Airstrike On Mekelle

Addis Abeba — Martin Griffiths, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, confirmed media reports that the UN humanitarian flight in Ethiopia "destined for Mekelle in Tigray was forced to return to Addis Abeba due to air strikes in Mekelle."

On October 22, a fourth day airstrike by the government that started this week has forced a UN Humanitarian Flight carrying 11 UN staff members to abort landing in Mekelle.

In a statement released last night, Mr. Griffiths said "the UN had not received any prior warning of the attacks on Mekelle and had received the necessary clearances for the flight." He further said that the incident "raises serious concerns for the safety of humanitarian staff who are working to help civilians in humanitarian need."

The incident happened a day after the latest UN humanitarian report was published cautioning that several humanitarian partners were forced to significantly reduce or suspend their activities due to "the severe shortages of fuel."

"Since 11 October, out of the seven main active food partners, for instance, at least three have already forced to cease food distribution. The other four will also have to cease distribution outside of Mekelle within one week if fuel is not received. Water trucking and dislodging by some partners have almost seized, as well as the distribution of WASH items," the report said.

"The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate due to the continued restrictions imposed on the delivery of humanitarian supplies into the region via the route through Afar (Semera-Abala-Mekelle). Between 13 and 19 October, 215 trucks of humanitarian supplies arrived in Tigray, a slight increase from the week before. This brings the number of trucks carrying humanitarian supplies that entered the region since 12 July to 1,111 or 15 per cent of the trucks needed. An estimated 100 trucks with food, non-food items, and fuel must enter Tigray daily to meet critical humanitarian needs."

"The trucks this week carried food, nutrition, shelter and mixed cargo supplies. Fuel, however, has still not been allowed into Tigray. Fourteen fuel tankers (45,000 liters/each) remain in Semera. On 14 October, fuel trucks received approval by the Government to proceed, but they were denied transit to Tigray at a checkpoint, requiring a letter of authorization from the Federal Police Commissioner in Addis Abeba. Consequently, the trucks returned to Semera. Partners estimate they need more than 272,000 liters of fuel every month to carry out their humanitarian operations."

Despite increasing difficulties, however, Mr. Griffiths said the UN and non-governmental organizations were making every effort to "continue delivering assistance to millions of people in desperate need in Tigray, Amhara and Afar. Conflict dynamics make this increasingly difficult."

Worsening toll in Amhara and Afar regions

He also said that he was "increasingly alarmed about the impact of fighting in Amhara and Afar regions and the worsening toll on civilians."

The latest report said in Amhara, active fighting continued in parts of North and South Wello, Wag Hemra, and North Gonder, "blocking access and the delivery of humanitarian assistance."

Similarly, in Afar, extensive fighting was reported in Ewa and Awra Woredas in Zone 2, with unverified reports of civilian casualties. Inside Tigray, some areas in Eastern Zone remain inaccessible. Quoting Afar regional state government, the UN said the ongoing conflict has "affected more than 323,000 people in zones 2 and 4 in Afar. Assistance is urgently needed to both regions and humanitarian partners are scaling up humanitarian aid in support of the regional authority-led responses."

"All precautions must be taken to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure. Under international humanitarian law, all parties to the conflict must take constant care to spare civilians and civilian objects from harm, including humanitarian personnel and assets," Mr Griffiths warns. AS

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